“Let us mark, in the second place, the words of our Lord to the apostles, when they returned from their first public ministry. “He said unto them, come ye apart yourselves into a desert place, and rest a while.”
These words are full of tender consideration. Our Lord knows well that His servants are flesh as well as spirit, and have bodies as well as souls. He knows that at best they have a treasure in earthen vessels, and are themselves compassed with many infirmities. He shows them that He does not expect from them more than their bodily strength can do. He asks for what we can do, and not for what we cannot do. “Come ye apart,” He says, “and rest a while.”
These words are full of deep wisdom. Our Lord knows that His servants must attend to their own souls as well as the souls of others. He knows that constant attention to public work is apt to make us forget our own private soul-business, and that while we are keeping the vineyards of others, we are in danger of neglecting our own. He reminds us that it is good for ministers to withdraw occasionally from public work, and look within. “Come ye apart,” He says, “into a desert place.”
There are few unhappily in the church of Christ, who need these admonitions. There are but few in danger of overworking themselves, and injuring their own bodies and souls by excessive attention to others. The vast majority of professing Christians are indolent and slothful, and do nothing for the world around them. There are few comparatively who need the bridle nearly so much as the spur. Yet these few ought to lay to heart the lessons of this passage. They should economize their health as a talent, and not squander it away like gamblers. They should be content with spending their daily income of strength, and should not draw recklessly on their principal. They should remember that to do a little, and do it well, is often the way to do most in the long run. Above all they should never forget to watch their own hearts jealously, and to make time for regular self-examination, and calm meditation. The prosperity of a man’s ministry and public work is intimately bound up with the prosperity of his own soul. Occasional retirement is one of the most useful ordinances.”
JC Ryle, “Expository Thoughts on the Gospels, Volume 1”, (Michigan: Baker Book House, 2007) 124-125.